The scandal of Packer’s proposed Barangaroo Casino

Mar 28, 2021

The Packer family have only once faced public scrutiny in their pursuit of a casino license in Australia. In the early ’90s, Kerry Packer ran a very distant third to Showboat and Leighton Properties in his pursuit of the license to run a casino in Sydney.  Kerry spent the next 2 years desperately trying to overturn the decision using every possible argument to blacken Showboat’s name. The memory of it reminds me of all the arguments Packer advanced to reverse Showboat’s victory.  

Showboat was well-credentialed in the United States where it had undergone the closest scrutiny of its capacities to adhere to every letter of the law in its conduct of a casino license. Isn’t it funny how these accusations about Showboat have come back to haunt the Packers?

The family’s success in obtaining the licenses in both Perth and Melbourne were the results of share transactions. In both cases, they had to pass a credibility test to transfer the license to themselves. They must have realized that to own an Australian license is not only a license to print money but it involved strict adherence to the laws that govern the ownership of such a license. Surely the rules to which they agreed to conform barred such sins as money laundering and knowledge of drug trafficking in their casino. Any sort of collusion with criminals or people of ill repute, nor the presence of prostitutes was barred.

The records of both their casinos showed they not only ignored these regulations, which are standard for casinos around the world but so too the authorities who administer these casino licenses. Despite rumours which have circulated for years, it is only now that the regulatory bodies in both Western Australia and Victoria have instituted inquiries into the license holder’s behaviour.

Add to these sins, the open dealings with foreign crime gangs, the doubtful arrangements re visas for these alleged high rollers and to top it all their blatant breaking of the national laws in China seeking visits from a wider range of gamblers. This resulted in the incarceration of a number of Crown staff in China and for a long period.

They not only broke the national law in China about encouraging gambling, they blackened Australia’s reputation by openly flouting the conditions that govern these laws in that country. Just what Australia needed; a wealthy Australian company besmirching our reputation by openly breaking the law in another country. I laugh every time I see someone suggest that this organization with this deplorable reputation of breaking every law applicable to their licenses in Melbourne and Perth should be considered worthy to obtain the license for the new proposed Sydney casino.

The Chairman of the Packer Crown Board, ex-Liberal Party Senator and MP, Helen Coonan, has been on the Board for a decade, picking up annual Director’s fees rumoured to be in the 7 figure area and Chair for the last 2 years. That this Chairperson and the rest of the board members knew nothing of the multiple illegalities and deplorable standards of which Crown is alleged to have been guilty is almost laughable. Every Director of every public company in Australia should know  how the company operates.

It’s folly to consider that any of these people, from the Chairman down, could ever be considered worthy of board-membership on the proposed Sydney Casino. The law regarding the company Director’s obligations is very clear and should be beyond question.

The history of the Barangaroo Casino concept is wrapped in questions of suspicious manipulation. This Barangaroo site was originally nominated as a public park. Premier O’Farrell, advised by Alan Jones, informed Packer that if he applied for a casino license on that site raising conditions of special State Significance, it was possible to allot that site to Packer without tender.  What an absolute insult to the people of Sydney that a proposed public park to share the joys of Barangaroo could be set aside to allow Packer to build that monstrous monument to greed and doubtful legality.

The casino as proposed would cater only for the rich and famous and those deplorable “High Rollers” whose ill-gotten billions have been at the cost of millions of Chinese workers while these gamblers fraudulently clean billions of illegal dollars in Australia’s casinos.

The Grollo Company proposed to build an adjoining building at Barangaroo before they were suddenly forced into receivership. Their building in Barangaroo was threatened because it had the temerity to impinge on the scenes of the harbour that remain exclusively in Packer’s hands. Funnily enough, in my ignorance, I thought such pleasures of harbour views etc. were the property of the working class. Silly me. Spend a billion dollars on a penthouse in the Packer tower and you have undisputed, unimpeded views of our beautiful harbour.

This manipulation of public land by the government without tender, catering again to the hopes and ambitions of the very wealthy class, makes me sick at heart. That the evil entity which is the Crown Organization, managed by this bunch of Directors, to be considered possible managers of the new, exclusive Packer casino license is disgraceful. If they are even considered worthy of this post given their absolute failure to comprehend the sins of Crown in the past, I give up. What do you need to do in this country with some of the governments we tolerate to be considered unworthy to occupy positions where public trust is paramount? I rest my case!

The public hearings held recently indicate very clearly an absolute lack of decent behaviour by Crown in their implementation of the laws and conditions which a casino license demands.

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